Talpha Harris
Building a Business Plan + Campus Connections

With over 5 years of entrepreneurial and business experience, Talpha is a IP holding serial entrepreneur specializing in creating start-ups across multiple industries. She is the owner of Sustainable which assesses the viability of business plans and Ancient Path Adventures, a business that creates bible card and board games. Talpha previously managed the Entrepreneurship Hub at Bridgeway Capital, which encompasses accelerators, workshops and technical assistance. During her time at Carolina, Talpha served as a Program Assistant for the Shuford Program of Entrepreneurship, a Global Gap Year Fellow, and a Bryan Fellow. She was also a member of Honors Carolina, Carolina Women in STEM, the Sustainability Residential Learning Program, the BLUE Residential Learning Program, and the 1789 Venture Lab.

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Ellie Still
Investment Analyst at NTTVC
Ellie is a Shuford Program alum and is currently working towards an MBA at Columbia Business School. Prior to starting school, she worked as an investment associate at NTTVC, a $500M, returns-driven fund based in Silicon Valley. She helps source, analyze and screen potential investment opportunities in addition to supporting portfolio development to encourage business growth. She would love to chat with you about how to connect and grow your network. She is also immensely valuable in helping student ventures prepare for funding. Set up a one-on-one chat with Ellie by shooting her an email today.
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Kimberly Yingling
Student Engagement and Events Manager at Innovate Carolina

Kimi joined the Innovate Carolina team in May 2017 after spending some time as the Graduate Student Services Specialist in the UNC Department of Communication. Her current role allows her to work with students and student clubs that have novel ideas and admirable passion. Additionally, Kimi runs a working group of staff from various departments and programs with the mission of building the innovative and entrepreneurial mindset and skillset of all UNC students. Before relocating to North Carolina, Kimi attended West Virginia University and received a master’s degree and license in Counseling. Originally from central Pennsylvania, Kimi attended Penn State University for a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She remains a die-hard college sports fan, enjoys working out and often spends her evenings doing college access work with high school students at the Emily K Center in Durham.

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Jakelin Bonilla
Social Eship & Global Impact

Jakelin “Jaki” Bonilla graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2012 with a major in Global Studies and a minor in Entrepreneurship. At UNC, she founded Linking Immigrants to New Communities, which helps ease the transition of recent immigrants through student interaction and awareness-raising in the community, and worked as a Senior Intern in the Bonners Leaders Program at the Campus Y. After graduating from UNC she served as the director of the Campus Y’s Global Gap Year Fellowship for three years before she was awarded the Henry Luce Scholarship and worked at the United Nations Official Migration Agency-International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Thailand. Jakelin has recently returned to the Campus Y to continue supporting students’ social justice and social innovation initiatives.

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Jonathan Collins
Operations & Customer Experience

Jonathan Collins is the Innovation Programs Manager with First Flight Venture Center and Hangar 6 Prototyping Center. Jonathan started his entrepreneurial career in the restaurant and the food & beverage retail market. He purchased his first restaurant, The Bagel Bar, in 2012 after serving in various managerial roles both front of house and in the kitchen. In 2016, he built a second Bagel Bar from the ground up in downtown Durham and has extensive knowledge of the process of opening a new brick and mortar business. After selling both restaurants in 2019, Jonathan worked as a Business Resiliency Counsellor with the NC Small Business and Technology Development Center advising client companies on best practices for growing their small businesses and how to leverage COVID specific government relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.

Jonathan is able to assist on a wide range of issues new business face but brings a passion for marketing, operations, and customer experience to all his counseling interactions.

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Liz Chen
Design Thinking

Liz is the design thinking lead on our Innovate Carolina team. In 2016, she was trained in human-centered design at the world renowned design firm IDEO in San Francisco. Through her training, she spent 18 months applying design thinking mindsets and methods to develop a technological solution to teen pregnancy. In 2017, she co-founded the tech nonprofit MyHealthEd, Inc. whose mission is to use human-centered design to improve the health and well-being of youth of every identity. Its first product Real Talk is a mobile app that uses real stories by real teens to convey relevant and credible information about health topics to teens and reassures them that they are not alone. Real Talk has reached more than 10,000 teens and has been featured in Fast Company and Teen Vogue. Liz was named to the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 class for Social Entrepreneurs and in May 2019, Liz served as the co-facilitator for the Chancellor’s Faculty Entrepreneurship Workshop at UNC-Chapel Hill that focused on design thinking.

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Nancy Lovas
Business Research and Information

Nancy Lovas is the Entrepreneurship Information Consultant/Librarian for UNC Chapel Hill. Are you searching for authoritative information to plan your business or research your market? Trying to navigate thousands of search results? Not sure where to find answers to your questions? Nancy will guide you to information sources for business research.

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Patrick Kastian
Market & Competitive Research & Analysis

Patrick Kastian is an analyst at Innovate Carolina and has over seven years of experience in market research and business development across a wide range of industries. Whether you just started working on your idea, have already built your first prototype, or are ready to start marketing your product, Patrick can help guide you through the next steps in your startup process. Prior to joining UNC-Chapel Hill, Patrick worked for the German American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco, where he managed market research, lead generation and competitive landscaping. Patrick holds a Bachelor of Arts in marketing and business administration from the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen, Germany and a Bachelor of Science in international business administration from UNC-Wilmington. Recent professional development activities include the Conference Board’s Innovation Master Class and UNC’s Presentation Skills course.

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Melissa Carrier
Social Innovation

Melissa Carrier is a professor of the practice in the Department of Public Policy and the director of the Office of Social Innovation at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is the founder and former executive director of the Center for Social Value Creation at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

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Matt Verber, Collin McKinney
Engineering Startup Consulting

Matt and Collin are both engineers with a wealth of experience and entrepreneurial backgrounds. Their combined expertise includes communication, medial devices, imaging, signal processing, analytical instrumentation, and state-of-the-art electronics. Whether you’re seeking information about design, prototyping, or manufacturing, Mat and Collin are your go-to resource for lounging your engineering start-up and achieving your commercialization goals.

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Joseph Ruiz
Enzerna Biosciences President

All students face an unavoidable question – “How do I translate my degree into a rewarding career?”

Dr. Ruiz is President of Enzerna Biosciences, a UNC-based gene therapy company. Dr. Ruiz has made several career changes including 13 years as faculty member at two universities and a biotechnology entrepreneur who has launched two gene therapy companies (Enzerna Biosciences and Epigenos Biosciences) and a consulting firm (Emerging Biotechnology Development Services) focused on commercializing university-owned life science technologies.

Dr. Ruiz serves on advisory boards and technology review panels at UNC as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Biosciences Organization (NCBIO) which is dedicated to supporting NC’s life science community through its advocacy for supportive public policy. As an adjunct professor in the Department of Biology, Dr. Ruiz is active in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing careers in the biotech sector.

Feel free to contact Dr. Ruiz to discuss strategies for career development at


Alex Brandwein
Starting a Business

Alex Brandwein is the founder/owner of Brandwein’s Bagels, a retail shop in downtown Chapel Hill, offering New York-style bagels and bagel sandwiches. Upon receiving his MBA from Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC, he launched the business in the spring of 2020 and has a wealth of experience in the ups and downs of a starting a company.

Alex is originally from New York. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011. After college, he spent seven years in investment banking and private equity in Chicago and New York. In 2018, Alex decided to come to UNC for its MBA program, to explore his entrepreneurial passions, to cultivate his leadership skills and to develop the tools necessary to start a business. He fell in love with the community and recognized an opportunity to share his love of bagels by opening a shop in town. This would not have happened without the support of the UNC and broader Chapel Hill/Carrboro community. Outside of work, Alex enjoys everything ice hockey, reading biographies and listening to all types of podcasts.

Stephanie Johnson
Comp Sci Career Exploration

Stephanie Johnson is the Career Development Manager at the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Computer Science. She serves over 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students and also co-leads employer relations in tandem with departmental colleagues. Prior to her current role, she served as a general career counselor in University Career Services at UNC-CH, and as a graduate career services intern in the NC State University College of Design. Her current and primary work focuses on alumni mentorship, student career development, and tailored career programming for computer science majors at UNC-CH. Stephanie is originally from Wilson, NC, and earned an M.Ed. in College Counseling and Student Development from NC State University. Her undergraduate degrees are in both Psychology and Spanish from East Carolina University.

Marvin Diaz
MBA Candidate

Marvin Diaz is a full-stack product manager, having spent over 7 years in the world of digital product management working for big tech, startups, and everything in between. With an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering, Marvin’s been responsible for launching over 22 successful digital products, most of them in cutting-edge emerging tech sectors. Marvin is also an entrepreneur and innovator at heart, consulting for over 15 startups driving over $2.7M in gross product revenue. His primary areas of focus are product development, go to market strategy, growth, and commercial strategy.

Barbara Bell
Business Owner/Lecturer

Barbara Bell is an educator and small business owner who teaches the tenets of entrepreneurship through the E(I) Lab here at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her work is focused on building strong leaders through experiential education. Barbara received her M.Ed. from Cambridge College and her B.S. from Wheelock College.

Shri Kolanukuduru
Investment Partner

Shri currently works as an investment partner at Pioneer, a venture capital fund backed by Stripe and Andreessen Horowitz, where he invests in founders at their earliest stages. Previously Shri was on the founding team at Simplify, a YCombinator-backed startup that aimed to optimize the job search process for students and new grads. He has also worked on product and strategy at Bamboo, a fintech company seeking to democratize access to all asset classes, and in venture capital at Cofounders Capital, where he invested in software companies in and around NC.